Seaside plastic bags

Fifth-grade students Mariliz Leon-Mejia, Theia McCarthy and Maddie Menke from The Heights Elementary School show support for a plastic bag ban in Seaside.

SEASIDE — The City Council took the first step Monday night to a single-use plastic bag ban.

Residents from throughout the region — from Long Beach, Washington, to Arch Cape — came to support a ban. And by night’s end, the crowd, including three fifth-graders from John Meyer’s Heights Elementary School class, erupted in applause after a unanimous vote.

The new ordinance would prohibit plastic carry-out bags, similar to state legislation approved in Salem on Tuesday.

Retailers may charge customers a reasonable pass-through cost — no less than 10 cents a bag — for a recyclable paper bag or reusable bag. The penalty for violating the ordinance would be a fine of up to $100.

Fifth-graders Mariliz Leon-Mejia, Madeleine Menke and Theia McCarthy recommended that consumers embrace reusable bags.

“Plastic bags are not very good for the environment,” the students said. “And neither are straws. We need to take a break from plastic bags. And that break starts now. ... If we stop using plastic bags, we will make the environment better for all of us.”

Joyce Hunt, of Seaside, who helped craft the bill, thanked the mayor and City Council for their support. She was among the residents who circulated petitions calling for the ban, gathering more than 130 signatures and another 100 online.

Correspondence to the city in favor of the ban included the state Department of Environmental Quality, which supports bans on single-use plastic bags and a fee on single-use paper bags.

The Northwest Grocery Association also supported the ban, contingent on a pass-through fee refundable when a consumer reuses the recycled paper bag with a grocery purchase.

SOLVE, which removes trash from beaches, says plastic bags clog waterways, damage farmland and provide an “ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.” Also, plastic bags are manufactured using petroleum, a nonrenewable resource.

The impact of plastics on the environment was stressed Monday night.

Seaside resident Russ Mead offered photos of damage to the osprey nest in Broadway Park, with a photo on “osprey cam” of a plastic bag littering the nest.

The bag is gone now, Mead said, “but this is what happens.”

Seaside’s Martin Letourneau said in California, which has had a ban in place since 2016, “most people adjusted quickly and easily.”

Alex Carney, of Seaside, called for a ban “for our community and for our children.”

Seaside would be the first city in Clatsop County to enact a ban.

“We live in a pristine environment and we want to keep it that way,” Mayor Jay Barber said. “I think this is a good first step — there are other steps we will need to take — but it’s a first step.”

The City Council could amend the ban based on public feedback before a second reading of the ordinance scheduled for June 24.

“My hope is that people who have a concern will come talk to us,” Barber said. “The train is rolling down the tracks.”

R.J. Marx is editor of the Seaside Signal and covers South County for The Astorian. Reach him at 971-320-4557 or rmarx@seasidesignal.com.

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